I pinched the bridge of my nose and sighed, stretching my aching legs out in front of me. I could still hear the howling of the last monster and its tiny minion as they retreated down the hallway to the elevator.
The soft click of the door latching into place muffled the sound, letting my mind focus on Godric as he rounded the corner from the hallway.
“Is the she-beast gone? And the devil child?” The pleading tone of my voice didn’t affect Godric at all. The bastard actually had the nerve to chuckle.
“Yes. I told her I’d pass their names on to some other director friends, but sadly Candy just wasn’t right for this part. Seriously, who names their little girl Candy?!?”
I sighed again as the long day tried to catch up with me. I fought off the exhaustion by sheer force of will, knowing we still had more to do.
“See, this is what happens when you get too ambitious! How many more?” I whined, trying-unsuccessfully I might add-to rub a kink out of my neck. “I really want to be done. Please, Godric…pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaassseeeee!”
Displaying my absolutely top-notch acting skills (and my absolute love of sarcasm), I threw myself down and latched onto his legs, huge fake sobs escaping my mouth as I screwed up my face in a mock wail.
“Psh! Bitch please!” Godric laughed as he pushed my forehead and I sprawled backwards dramatically. “We only have one more. And from what Harve’s been texting me all day, this duo seems like they might work out.” His raised eyebrow and slight smile mocked my desperation and I sneered at his optimism.
I scoffed, picking myself up off the area rug and flinging myself back onto Godric’s ridiculously plush sofa. “That’s what you said about spawn #3, and that clusterfuck was nearly apocalyptic!” I complained knowing he was just as tired of this shit as I was.
“Okay Pam is the one who praised that third one so much and I’m pretty sure it’s only becuase she wanted to nail the kid’s mom.”
“Then maybe your sister wasn’t the best choice for an assistant, hmm?” I rolled my eyes as Godric seated himself gently next to me after pushing my feet off the furniture.
“Well, this one seems promising. Despite being scheduled last, they showed up first. And Harve says the little girl has been reading the entire time and actually turned down the chance to use his iPad to watch a movie without her mom’s prompting. And when the other moms were stuffing their cherubs faces with Cheetos and Oreos, this mom had homemade granola, dried fruit and yogurt pouches-all of which he says are delicious because they shared with him. You ready?”
“No.” Yes, I was pouting. Ask me if I care. “Ugh, just gimme the file while they come up.”
Godric tossed a file folder at me as he went to wait in the hallway.
The girl was cute, no doubt about it. Pixie like features, soft looking brown hair, and startling blue eyes all came together for a truly magnificent little girl. The only drawback I could potentially see was her lack of experience acting on screen. She had lots of stage experience, but the two were so vastly different…
I was yanked out of my ruminations as I heard voices in the hall. I heard the indistinct rumble of Godric’s voice coming closer as, I assume, he let them in the door.
“It’s very nice to meet you Mr. Hyde. My name is Zoe Velasquez and I want to thank you for allowing me to audition for you today,” the peppy voice of a little girl floated through the apartment. She certainly sounded fairly polite and well behaved, although I wondered if she was actually that way or if it was an exceptional coaching job.
“Well, it’s very nice to meet you as well, Zoe,” I could just imagine Godric crouched down to her level and holding out his hand. “And you as well, Mrs. Velasquez. Thank you for waiting.”
The three rounded the corner and I was struck dumb. I swear I had to have fallen asleep-or possibly had a psychotic break from reality due to stress-because they just don’t make women THIS gorgeous in real life. Surely, there had to be some mistake. I was so busy gawking at her that I nearly missed her next words.
“Oh, thank you, but it’s Stackhouse. Sookie Stackhouse,” she held her hand out to Godric, who gave it a shake, before she crossed the room to me. “Thank you both for meeting with us.”
I gripped her hand, perhaps a little longer than necessary (or polite), when Godric broke into my train of thought yet again.
“The pleasure is all ours, believe me Ms. Stackhouse. This is my friend and the lead actor of the movie, Eric Northman.”
She turned her beaming smile to me again. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Northman.”
I swallowed loudly as I slowly retracted my hand. “Uh, Eric. Just Eric, please.” I really hope it didn’t sound like I was begging, but damn I’d give anything to hear my name fall from those luscious lips.
“Well, then it’s only fair for y’all to call me Sookie,” she placed her hand gently on the little girl’s shoulder. “And this is my daughter, Zoe. She’s just over the moon about getting to audition for you.” She was still flashing that dazzling smile that I just could not tear my eyes from as she glanced down.
Sure enough, I followed her eyes down to the girl whose gaze was flitting between Godric and myself with a slightly star struck look. I stifled a chuckle and sank to my knees as I held my hand out to her. A blush rose on her cheeks as she timidly stuck her hand out, only to find it enveloped in my own.
“I’m so pleased to meet you, sir. When you played Leif Eriksson in The Halls of Valhalla it was so good! So…uh-true to character,” she was practically vibrating and I was struck dumb yet again.
“How old are you?”I asked, unable to keep the surprise from my tone.
“I’m 6. My birthday was in September.” Her head cocked to the side. “Why?”
“I uh-” my eyes cut up to rest on Sookie, then dropped back to Zoe. “I’m just surprised that you’d seen that movie. There wasn’t much of a market for it; it was just something fun for me to do.”
“She reads a lot and is fascinated with the Viking age. So when it popped up on Netflix, she couldn’t resist,” Sookie’s indulgent smile tugged at someplace in the middle of my chest. Rising slowly, I noticed my hand absently rubbing my chest. I turned my eyes to Godric who was sporting a knowing and slightly smug smile.
“Uh, should we maybe get started?” I was absurdly close to begging, positively reeling from the last few minutes. I needed to do something I knew, something I excelled at, to regain some semblance of normalcy that these two girls abruptly ripped away from me.
“Oh, yes!” He sprang into action, grabbing a small leaflet of papers off the coffee table and held them out to Zoe. “Here is the audition scene. You and Eric can move around, color, do whatever you’d like to do. I’m gonna start the video camera here,” he gestured to the tripod set up near the wall, “then I’ll be right over there, by the sliding glass door with your mother. Alright?”
Her brilliant blue eyes scanned quickly over the papers before she handed it back to him. “Okay. But I don’t need this. I’ve got it memorized.” She turned and spun, retreating to the small area already set up with crayons and paper. She spread out on her stomach, picked up a purple crayon and began scribbling something almost resembling a house.
I shot a look at Godric then cut my eyes to Sookie.
“I told you she was excited,” her smirk gave away how much she loved the fact that her daughter had astounded us-the tried and true movie veterans. Godric smirked as he pressed record and waited for the red light to appear before he stepped toward Sookie.
I rounded the table and sank to my knees beside this surprising little girl. I started to recite my lines automatically as I picked up a green crayon. I felt Godric and Sookie’s eyes on us as I lost myself in the scene with Zoe. She was astounding. I felt as if she really was the long-lost daughter that I was only just meeting.
While our chemistry was spot on and her charisma was something that positively couldn’t be faked, I had to do it; I just had to test her. Knowing she could deliver lines flawlessly when she was prepared was one thing, but reacting was another matter entirely.
I cast my eyes to Godric for a split second, trying to decide how much I wanted to break from the script. In the end, I decided to keep it fairly simple.
“Well, aren’t you sweet?”
Without missing a beat, Zoe replied, “Not especially. Can you hand me that brown crayon over there, please?”
My jaw dropped. I vaguely realized that my hand was robotically handing over the requested crayon and my mouth was reciting the remaining lines of the scene, but fuck me if I had any clue what had actually come out of my mouth.
I shook my head, trying to overcome the astonishment as I said my last line. “So why didn’t your mom ever tell me about you?”
“She said you weren’t ready to grow up.” Zoe deliberately placed the crayon back down on the table and fixed her ocean blue eyes on me with a penetrating stare. “I have to say, I think she was right. It doesn’t seem like you were ready to be a daddy before. But maybe now you are.”
Godric’s throat clearing broke into the haze surrounding us and I gulped-probably audibly.
“That was-marvelous. Zoe, I think it’s safe to say that the part is yours if you want it.”
Zoe smiled wide, her cute button nose wrinkling in the most adorable way.
“Thank you, Mr. Hyde!” She wiggled around, almost doing a bit of a happy dance right there on the floor, then picked up another crayon to begin working on her picture again.
I shot a glance toward Godric and Sookie, who was beaming like she’d just won the lottery. I turned back to Zoe, absently rubbing my chest again and wondering what changes these two females would bring me.
“Why don’t we let them talk for a bit while we figure this out?” Godric motioned for me to follow him as he reached over to stop the video camera.
We stepped through an open archway and I noted the clear eye line I had on Zoe, which was honestly unexpected and completely appreciated. Godric stepped up to a pristine counter top and pulled a cutting board out from underneath.
“You’re welcome to stay for dinner. We can make an appointment with our lawyer in a few days if we all decide to go ahead with this. You are, of course, welcome-and encouraged-to bring your own counsel as well.” His quiet demeanor calmed my nerves and I nodded slightly.
I checked my watch, noting how late it suddenly seemed to be. “I-uh…yeah we can stay. I know Zoe will be thrilled. I just need a minute to call home, if you don’t mind.”
He nodded to the patio and I smiled gratefully as I stepped toward the living room. “Hey Zoe?” She and Eric glanced up from their coloring. “Do you want to stay for dinner?”
Her head bobbed so hard I was afraid she’d topple over. Eric chuckled as his large hand reached out to calm her. “I’m gonna call home. Do you wanna talk to Dad?”
“Moooooom! I’m busy with Eric!”
I bit the inside of my cheek to hold in the laughter threatening to bubble out as I held my hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay! Be good for a minute while I’m outside, okay?”
The little butt rolled her eyes as she pulled Eric’s attention back to their project and I retreated back to the kitchen. I dug my phone out of my humongous bag and ducked out the sliding glass door.
I pressed the speed dial as I leaned against the rail overlooking the teeming streets below us. The phone rang and rang and rang and I rolled my eyes, knowing they’d probably be taking advantage of us being gone for some alone time.
“Hey guys! Zoe got the part. Yay, I know. Anyways, the director invited us to stay for dinner so that we can all get to know each other. Ya know, just to make sure Zoe and the lead guy are gonna mesh well. So, I’ll try to call Jase or we’ll get a hotel room and then I’ll drive us back in the morning. Just wanted to let you know. Have fuuuuuuuunnnn.”
I smiled to myself, just knowing how they’d react when they got my message. I’m fairly certain I’d be making another run to the grocery store to replace the whipped cream. I punched another number, but hung up when it rolled to voicemail. I hadn’t expected him to answer since he was always so busy, but it had been worth a shot.
I stepped back into the kitchen, dropping my phone in my bag and then dropping my bag on the floor by the end of the bar.
“So, what can I do to help?”
Godric smiled at me as he chopped some carrots. His knife skills were superb and I was immediately impressed with the precision he displayed.
“Absolutely nothing. We’ll just have salad and some pasta, if that’s alright with you.” I nodded, knowing Zoe would eat anything if she got to do it at the table with Godric and Eric.
“So, will your-I mean, will Zoe’s father be coming to the meeting with the lawyer?”
I smiled. “Well, actually one of her fathers is our attorney, so…”
His head whipped up, his eyes comically wide.
“Yeah…long story. My family defines the Swamp Trash stereotype. At least to everyone in Bon Temps.”
“Well,” Godric leaned over the counter, peeking into the living room where Zoe was demonstrating some kind of coloring technique to Eric. They looked like quite the pair laying side by side. Then I noticed their tongues were poking out of their mouths, at nearly the same angle and I fisted my hand over my mouth to keep the giggle inside. I leaned down and quickly yanked my phone out of my bag to pull up the camera. I snapped away spastically until they moved onto something else, smirking as I heard Godric’s soft chuckles behind me.
“Since it seems like they’re sufficiently occupied, we’ve got time. Care to share?”
I took a seat at the bar, linking my fingers together and taking a deep breath.
“Hey,” I felt a soft touch on my arm and looked up to find an apologetic expression on Godric’s handsome face. “I didn’t mean to pry. You don’t have to explain anything to me. She’s got the part regardless.”
“Oh, no. It’s not that. I was just thinking.” I smiled and he pulled back, grabbing a cucumber and a vegetable peeler. “Do you want the long version or the short version?”
He shrugged. “Whichever you’re comfortable with.”
“When I started kindergarten there was this kid-Lafayette-in my class. Now, we live up in Bon Temps-it’s a tiny town about an hour out of Shreveport. And he was literally the only black kid…not even in the class, but in the entire school. And everybody in that Godforsaken, bigoted town was horrible to him. So, naturally we became besties almost immediately.” Godric shot a smile at me and pulled out a tomato. “Fast forward a couple years and a new kid transfers in-Jesus. As you can guess, he’s Latino. Again, small-minded, bigoted town…immediate besties with Lafayette and me. So, senior year we were hanging out at Jesus’ house when the guys decided to drop a bomb on me.”
I took another deep breath, glancing at my daughter and her new best friend. They were working on a picture together now, something remotely resembling a dragon.
“Lafayette told me that they thought that they were gay. And then Jesus jumped in saying that he wasn’t entirely sure. So-brilliant me decides to suggest a solution. We ended up hooking up and he figured out he really and truly was gay. And I ended up pregnant. But he and Lafayette got together and we’ve been co-parenting ever since.”
Godric gaped at me and I shifted nervously on the bar stool.
“I’m-uh…wow. That’s-” I braced for the disappointment, the rejection, the- “amazing.”
Say what, now?!?
He noticed the shock on my face and tilted his head to the side, a soft smile gracing his features. “Honestly I’m amazed. Zoe turned out wonderfully, so obviously you three are doing something right.”
He shrugged. “Besides, who am I to judge? Believe me, we’ve all got pasts. I’m sure you’ll hear more about ours eventually.”
A deep breath whooshed out of my lungs and I sucked another in. “Wow, so she’s still got the part?”
Godric shot me an incredulous look. “Of course. Now-what kind of sauce does she like?”